A “special assistant attorney general” who has been working for Oregon’s Department of Justice, yet whose salary was being paid by Michael Bloomberg using a pass-through agency, is working in circumstances partially or completely contrary to Oregon law, according to an analysis by the office of legal counsel that serves the Oregon State Legislature.
The scheme of third-party sources paying for this attorney and others like him was uncovered and reported in late August by Chris Horner, a senior fellow at the Competitive Enterprise Institute in Washington, D.C.
Horner’s investigation found similar arrangements in AG offices in the District of Columbia, Maryland, Washington, Massachusetts, and New York, and shows that the attorneys were hired to focus on climate change issues.
While the effort has many layers, in general it begins with Bloomberg’s funding of a specialty school within New York University’s School of Law, the The Center’s website states that part of their mission is to work “with interested attorneys general to identify and hire NYU Law Fellows who serve as special assistant attorneys general in state attorney general offices, focusing on clean energy, climate and environmental matters.”
However, the center also pays the salaries when the “special assistant attorneys general” (SAAG) are taken on at an attorney general’s office (OAG). Horner’s report suggests these efforts are at best unethical, and often times illegal.
For example, Oregon law gives the attorney general wide latitude in hiring assistant attorneys, but the law also states that, “each assistant shall receive the salary fixed by the Attorney General, payable as other state salaries are paid.”
The legal analysis by the legislature’s office of legal counsel obtained by the Washington Free Beacon determined that the SAAG working in the Oregon Department of Justice “is not receiving a salary fixed by the Attorney General, and his salary is not paid as other state salaries are paid. This arrangement does not comply with [Oregon Revised Statute] 180.140 (4).”
In performing the analysis, the legislative counsel’s office examined the employment contract for SAAG Steve Novick, and noticed that “the documents also require the DOJ and Mr. Novick to report to and collaborate with the [NYU] Center.”
“Although these duties may be minimal, they arguably prevent Mr. Novick from ‘devot[ing] the full time of the assistant to the business of the state’ as required” by the same Oregon statute cited previously, the letter added.
A similar situation may exist in New York, where 2 SAAGs have been hired, according to Horner’s findings, and state law provides that the attorney general may appoint “attorneys as he may deem necessary and fix their compensation with the amounts appropriated therefor.”